Psoriasis is more than just an uncomfortable inconvenience. It can negatively impact mental health, stress levels and relationships for people worldwide, and Canada is no exception. In fact, Canadians living with psoriasis show significantly higher levels of loneliness than the global averages.
How do we know this and why haven’t we talked about psoriasis and happiness before? The first World Psoriasis Happiness Report was recently published by the Happiness Research Institute, in partnership with LEO Innovation Lab, an independent unit of LEO Pharma (one of my clients). It’s the result of data from more than 120,000 surveys from over 100 countries. The report found that, no matter the country, living with psoriasis can significantly lower your happiness.
It’s time we all had a better understanding of what psoriasis is and the impact that nutrition can have on managing flare-ups. Improving awareness and management of psoriasis can help boost the happiness levels of the estimated 1 million Canadians living with psoriasis.
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition where rapid cell growth in the skin leads to red, scaly areas called plaques. One of the main risk factors is genetics.
The good news is, there are treatments for psoriasis like topical medications, which can be put right on the skin as well as systemic medications. A healthy lifestyle can also help manage flare-ups and could even help make medications more effective. Yet results from the World Happiness Report show that more than half of Canadians don’t think their health care provider has told them about treatments. It’s about time we changed that. Talk to your doctor about treatments for psoriasis and take your happiness back!
Nutrition for Psoriasis
Psoriasis is closely linked with inflammatory metabolic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. For that reason, the best nutrition for psoriasis includes following healthy eating guidelines that can help prevent and manage these issues and may also improve your psoriasis symptoms.
Psoriasis and Your Weight
One key aspect of being healthier overall and when you’re living with psoriasis is achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight.
Obesity is linked to a higher risk of psoriasis and also to more severe symptoms. This review study also found that losing weight could improve the effectiveness of treatments. These effects are thought to be due to the link between being overweight and higher levels of inflammation.
If you are carrying extra weight, losing even a small amount could make your psoriasis less severe. Don’t fall for the allure of any crash diets. Follow a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory Mediterranean Diet and you’ll be cutting down on processed foods and eating healthier. Combine this with exercise and smaller portion sizes and you’ll be on your way to healthy, sustainable weight loss.
Heart Healthy, Anti-Inflammatory, Mediterranean Diet Patterns for Psoriasis
Psoriasis and inflammation appear to be closely connected. An anti-inflammatory diet won’t cure psoriasis, but it could help improve your symptoms.
To lower inflammation, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans and lentils, fish, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Keep red meat, sweets and greasy foods to once-in-awhile indulgences rather than a part of your regular diet.
The Mediterranean Diet has plenty in common with an anti-inflammatory diet, and both also happen to be heart-healthy diets (thank goodness, that makes things easier).
Read more about how the Mediterranean lifestyle can boost your health in my piece for Huffington Post.
One of the most famous features of the Mediterranean Diet is it includes a glass or two of red wine. For people with psoriasis, alcohol seems to make things worse. Try to avoid alcohol, especially if you notice it exacerbates your symptoms.
The Best Diet for Psoriasis is Individualized
Every person is unique, so foods that make one person’s psoriasis worse could have no effect on someone else’s symptoms. That’s why it’s important to work with a registered dietitian to find out which foods tend to make your psoriasis worse.
If you notice symptoms get worse after you eat certain types of foods, try cutting those out to see if there are any improvements. A dietitian can help you make sure you’re meeting all your nutrient needs while you temporarily limit your diet.
There is a connection between psoriasis and Celiac disease, so some people find that cutting gluten out of their diets can lower the severity of their psoriasis. Before you go on a gluten-free diet, ask your doctor to test you for Celiac disease. The test won’t work if you are already avoiding gluten.
Beyond paying attention to what you eat, people living with psoriasis need to seek the right treatment and care. Doctors, pharmacists and dermatologists can often help by developing a plan so patients can actively manage their psoriasis, using the latest treatments and management tools available. If you think you might have psoriasis or are having trouble with your treatment, speak with a healthcare professional and take control of your happiness.
For more details about the Canadian results of the Psoriasis Happiness Report, visit the Canadian Association of Psoriasis Patients.
I hope this information has helped you or someone you know live better and happier.